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7.31.2012

Legendary Pediatrics Professors Retire After 50-Plus Years of Service

When Lee Worley, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist, and Nancy Fawcett, M.D., a primary care specialist, began teaching UM medical students and residents more than a half-century ago, the children’s wards at Jackson Memorial were segregated, none had air-conditioning, and computers and beepers weren’t even a thought.

On the eve of their August 1 retirement much has changed, but not the indelible impact the iconic professors of pediatrics, with their combined 105 years of experience, have had on generations of medical students, residents, colleagues and patients.

“They’re the best – the reason you come here,” said Reuven Bromberg, M.D., who completed his pediatrics residency at Jackson in 2007. “There’s nothing like learning from people who have seen it all first-hand, and helped the program become what it is today.”

“They are the finest pediatrics professors and the finest people I know,” said Miller School Dean Emeritus Bernard Fogel, M.D., a fellow pediatrician and former student of both. “When asked to recommend a pediatrician my first choice was Lee Worley. And no one could supervise the pediatric out-patient clinic and teach students better than Nancy Fawcett. She is a compassionate, steady-in-the-boat teacher who teaches the highest standards of patient care. Both were instrumental in the development of our modern facilities and the Department of Pediatrics. The School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial and this community are truly blessed to have had professors of their caliber.”

Worley, a 1954 graduate of Vanderbilt University’s medical school who joined the University of Miami medical school as a part-time instructor in 1957, is known as a walking encyclopedia with a famously entertaining and irreverent wit. A pediatric behaviorist before it was a recognized specialty, he was the organizing medical director of the Dade County Development Evaluation Center—the precursor to the Mailman Center for Child Development—and performed neurological consultations on developmentally delayed children for the public schools.

“He wasn’t trained as a pediatric neurologist, but he knows it inside out,” Fogel said. “He was a part of things people never even knew about.”

“His combination of knowledge, insight and wisdom is a rare gift,” added Gwen Wurm, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics. “He’s the doctor you want taking care of your own kids. When my own daughter was hospitalized, there were 15 doctors in the room, and he was the one who made her feel safe and comfortable.”

A full-time hospitalist and ward attending who often begins his days at 6 a.m. doing pre-op evaluations at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Worley says he will miss practicing medicine – which he considers problem-solving. But he’s looking forward to having more time for reading, hunting, fishing and gardening. “I don’t want to stay past my time,” he said. “You can’t use a hearing aid when you use a stethoscope.”

One of three women in the University of North Carolina medical school class of 1958, Fawcett became an attending physician at Jackson in 1961, and has directed the UM/Jackson Pediatric Comprehensive Care Clinic since 1980, impressing scores of students with her vast knowledge and indefatigable passion for sharing it.

An authority on rashes, she could be found in the ER before 7 a.m. most mornings teaching students how to diagnose and treat them, yet she never relinquished her clinic duties – even when assigned to multi-month hospital rotations. She would just work an extra eight to 10 hours. Legions of residents remember the donuts and orange juice or homemade cookies or cake she delivered to the nurses’ stations on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and her around-the-clock wisdom.

“Everything I’ve learned about out-patient pediatrics I’ve learned from Dr. Fawcett,” said chief resident Patricia Zerra, M.D. “The things she thinks to ask patients you’ll never learn from a textbook. She looks at the whole patient. We’ve all learned so much from her work ethic and who she is as a person.”

In retirement, Fawcett plans to visit her family in North Carolina, and spend more time reading and traveling. She will miss the patients, helping their parents find the best medical care, and the students, whom she describes as “amazing,” and who Worley insists have a better aptitude for problem-solving than students of their era.

“It’s not a question of intelligence,” he said. “Because of technology, especially nuclear medicine, students have a hundred times more to learn than I did. They have to learn in a hurry. I had the past 50 years to learn it.”

But he failed to mention that, for decades, Miller School students have enjoyed a distinct advantage: All of them have been mentored and molded by two unparalleled professors of pediatrics, and pillars of the department.

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